The healing power of alligator pepper (Aframomum melegueta)

 


Aframomum melegueta is a member of the Zingiberaceae family, and it is well-known for its distinct qualities as a spice that is used all over the world. In Igboland, it is known as oseoji; internationally, it is known as grains of paradise, melegueta pepper, alligator pepper, Guinea grains, and, occasionally, Guinea pepper, which is frequently used for Xylopia aethiopica; a native spice that has been discussed in this column.

Aframomum's stem is a rhizome that ramifies into the soil and produces aerial shoots with alternate lanceolate leaves at the nodes of the underground rhizomes. The flowers grow basally on the rhizomes, are colored, and produce flask-shaped fruits that are capsules with small seeds tightly packed in loose paper-like linings, as shown in the picture.

The spicy compounds are found in the brown seeds.

The entire pod containing the seeds is sold as alligator pepper (in the same manner to another close relative, black cardamom). The English name, alligator pepper, is obvious when the pod is opened to reveal the seeds, which have a papery skin enclosing them and bumps on the seeds within this skin that resemble the back of an alligator.

It is used across cultures. There is no record of A.melegueta (Grains of Paradise) being substituted for alligator pepper in this cultural use, but it may be substituted in culinary uses. It is mostly used as an ingredient in pepper soup.

Apart from cooking with it, I chew it, despite the fact that it is extremely hot and spicy. I once advised a man to chew alligator pepper to increase his sperm count, but he refused because alligator pepper is used for fetish purposes. My mission on this platform is to discuss phytonutrients in plants and their health benefits, not their spiritual applications. I will not break this promise.

Alligator pepper is a diuretic, worm expellant, wound healer, and malaria treatment. It has traditionally been used to treat fibroids, gastrointestinal disorders, and dermatological conditions. It has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties as well.

It is a sperm booster and an aphrodisiac; in fact, preparation of it has been granted a patent in the United States as a potent aphrodisiac. 

A study published in the International Journal of Pharmacology titled, ‘Hypotensive and Antihypertensive Effects of Aframomum melegueta Seeds in Humans,' led by B.A.S Lawal, found that the seeds have a potent effect on blood pressure in both normotensive and hypertensive subjects. This is great news for hypertensive patients.

Osmond Ifeanyi Onyeka, a Professor of Complementary Medicine, observed that scientists of African origin in Canada who were intrigued by the sexual vitality of certain tribes discovered that alligator pepper was used as a spice to season food and was the source of this sexual vitality.

Let's look at some more of its health benefits:

Antioxidant properties:

Alligator pepper seeds are high in phytonutrients such as terpenoids, alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, cardiac glycosides, saponin, and phenolic compounds. They scavenge for free radicals and protect the body from viruses, allergens, microbes, platelet aggregation, tumors, ulcers, and hepato-toxins (which can cause chemical liver damage).

Antimicrobial properties: The seed extract is antimicrobial due to the presence of phenolic compounds, which are commonly used as disinfectants. According to research, alligator pepper extract has a broad spectrum of activity and thus inhibits the growth of bacteria such as Salmonella typhi, Staphylococcus aureus, and Klebsiella pneumonia, among others.

Researchers also attempted to determine the potency of its extract in the prevention of many common disease-causing germs such as Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, and Klebsiella pneumonia in a study. These include germs that cause food poisoning, pneumonia, blood infections, and other deadly diseases.

Lowers blood sugar: Alligator pepper is a seed that people with diabetes may find useful in regulating their blood sugar, thereby protecting them from diabetes complications like blindness and limb amputation. In order to determine the blood sugar lowering effect of alligator pepper, researchers used 25 albino rats that were randomly divided into five groups of five rats each. Throughout the experiment, two control groups: non-diabetic (positive) and diabetic (negative) were given tap water as a vehicle solvent.

The remaining three groups were given 100 mg/kg of metformin (a diabetes medication), 200 and 400 mg/kg of alligator pepper seed extract orally, and aqueous seed extract of alligator pepper simultaneously.

The researchers discovered that oral administration of aqueous extract of alligator pepper to diabetic rats lowered blood glucose to normal levels within six days of the administration, whereas metformin (a diabetic drug) took 14 days. The duration of lowering blood glucose by the two doses of extract administered was not significantly different, indicating that the effect was not dose-dependent.

Alligator Pepper could be the next weight loss and energy-boosting drug: Japanese researchers have discovered new uses for alligator pepper. In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers tested the traditional West African herbal remedy and discovered that it increases thermogenesis (the process of producing heat in organisms; it occurs most commonly in warm-blooded animals) and stimulates brown adipose tissue loss (brown adipose tissue can be difficult to reduce for those wanting to lose weight because it receives significant circulation).

A significant reduction in serum prolactin levels of Wistar nonlactating rats treated with Alligator pepper seed was observed in the West African Journal of Pharmacology and Drug Research. As a result, this lends support to its traditional use in weaning babies off breast milk.

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Breastfeeding mothers should avoid this spice.

Ute Inegbenebor et al. published a study titled ‘Abortifacient properties of alligator pepper (Aframomum melegueta) seeds' in the Journal of Pharmacy and Bio-resources.

ascertained that it could be used in fertility clinics as a safe abortifacient if the mother's life is seriously jeopardized by the pregnancy Pregnant women in their first trimester are advised to avoid eating alligator pepper to avoid miscarriage.


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